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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Glamping On The Go

Upstar altCamp's Luze RVs

When Adam Bosch set about starting up altCamp LLC, a high-end recreational vehicle company, he envisioned the Costa Mesa-based company’s for-rent RVs to be “a Four Seasons on wheels.”

The pitch—bringing five-star luxury to the camping experience, at a price starting around $425 a night, plus gas—has found notable takers.

Among the upstart’s initial batch of travelers has included a young billionaire exec from Silicon Valley and Filipe Toledo, the world’s top-ranked surfer, Bosch’s mutual friend and now an ambassador for the company.

The fintech exec took a private jet from San Francisco to the Alabama Hills area of the Sierra Nevadas, and had his driver drop off the rental to take the vehicle on a­ trip through the California desert.

“He was just out roaming around for three days,” said Bosch, who declined to specify the customer.


­Roadtrip Nation

That unidentified fintech exec isn’t alone among those looking for a high-end road trip in the wake of the pandemic. More people than ever are looking to hit the roads for outdoor adventures while avoiding crowds and air travel, and while still maintaining certain levels of luxury.

The RV market in North America was valued at nearly $34 billion in 2021. It’s expected to grow at a rate of 9.7% per year to reach $59 billion by 2027, according to data firm Mordor Intelligence.

Since the pandemic, outdoor recreation has been on the rise. The highest participation for outdoor recreation on record was in 2020, with 53% of Americans ages 6 and up RV camping, hiking, fishing or doing similar activities at least once, according to trade organization Outdoor Industry Association.

When Bosch and his family looked for a van to go on a trip while all the hotels were shut down in the early stages of the pandemic, he said they were “shocked at the lack of quality in RV industry.”

“So, there was a gap in the market here. And we decided to jump on it.”


Real Estate Ties

Bosch considers himself an avid outdoorsman, but didn’t plan on becoming an entrepreneur in the industry until last year.

After stints at the local office of brokerage CBRE Group Inc. and CapRock Partners, a Newport Beach commercial real estate investor and developer, he decided to take a step back from real estate following the birth of his second son.

The idea for altCamp came to him when he was on a night walk with his son strapped to his chest, “dreaming” about having a luxury van of his own.

While selling industrial real estate and starting a luxury van rental company may seem unrelated to some, Bosch’s real estate background has come in handy.

Building out an altCamp van is “similar to like a real estate rehab,” he said.

“You’ll kind of sit down with the builder and throw all your thoughts at them. Then they’ll do everything, like architectural quality renderings, so you can see exactly what it’s like. And then you hope it comes out like that.”


Luxe Living

Bosch said he stocked the altCamp vans with cookware from Williams-Sonoma Inc. because he felt it would be a familiar amenity for his guests.

“We knew we were going to have people from Orange County taking these vans out,” he said. The upgrades are designed to make the van “an extension of their house,” he said.

Vehicles in the startup’s fleet include a kitchen sink with hot water, a stovetop, refrigerator, microwave, a hot air heater, a queen bed, an outdoor shower and an iPad Pro with streaming service subscriptions. Bathrooms are not included.

Sleeping options for additional guests are available. Nearly all amenities in the vans are solar-powered.

“These are the nicest camper vans you’ll find anywhere,” Bosch told the Business Journal. “You can search the listing services in all the United States, you’re not going to find something as nice as this.”

Rentals typically last from four to five nights, Bosch says. Guests can book a vehicle on the altCamp site.

Before taking off, guests receive a 30-minute tutorial on the vehicle’s use and maintenance.


Hub and Spoke

Bosch says the company is looking to add a fourth van to its Costa Mesa hub, just down the street from service and sales centers for Rivian and Tesla, next year.

By then, the company anticipates to generate over $100,000 in annual revenue for each vehicle it owns.

The plan for now is to hold on to each vehicle for three or so years, sell them and then put the money into new models.

Rather than expanding the Costa Mesa fleet, Bosch’s goal for altCamp is to create a network across the country so guests can take vans on one-way trips, departing from one center and leaving the rental at another.

San Francisco poses a possible new spot for altCamp, Bosch says. The company is also in the process of setting up roots in Canada.

Bosch said he’s looking to expand altCamp’s services by offering curated trips on top of free-range rentals. He said the company is currently in talks of inking such a partnership with HipCamp Inc., which he described as an “Airbnb for campsites.”

Bosch said he has gotten approached from locals who’ve wanted to buy the company’s souped-up vehicles outright. He’s also been approached by deep-pocketed investors who want to help the company expand, including one of the founders of TechCrunch magazine and an early employee at Instagram.

For now, the company remains self-funded by him and his wife.

“We don’t need equity. If we were to bring somebody in, we need somebody who can help us take the business to the next level and get their hands dirty with me,” Bosch said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get the word out.”

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